I’m a pretty big hip hop culture nerd as I get older. I end up spending a lot of time reading things about the origins of hip hop and the creation of the music. I’m constantly asked questions and giving long explanations of the simplest random hip hop moment. I find the culture, something I grew up with all around, immensely fascinating how it is constantly and currently the most dominating part of popular American culture here and abroad. It connects to the urban Black and Latino communities. Continue Reading …
In all of the crises the news shows us each and every day, do you remember the one about the Silk Road? It’s the place in the dark corners of the Internet where people are able to buy and sell illegal drugs anonymously. All the gloom and doom and punditry of people on our TV screens about this site and its revealed owner, the “Dread Pirate Roberts”. Well probably not because like most things it’s a crisis one second and forgotten the next. The documentary Deep Web seeks to learn more about the creation of the Silk Road, the man who created it and why he did it. Director Alex Winter who’s last documentary Downloaded explored the rise and controversy of Napster turns his critical eye onto this disruptive new force on the Internet.
The film seems to focus on three things: Ross Ulbricht, the man who became known as the Dread Pirate Roberts, The War on Drugs, and the disruptive nature of the Internet on established forms of commerce. I feel it pretty much covers all of this well making the case that much of the problems right now we have are connected to the 40-year-long “War on Drugs”. Through home videos and interviews the people who know Ross paint him as a pretty sympathetic figure, as a person that wanted to change how things work but doing so with a site that deals in crime. I don’t totally buy into how good they make him out to be; this sense of him as a good libertarian that was totally true to his ideals. While he seems to have some good ideas the site seemed to become its own thing, kind of like 4chan from its creator.
To me the best parts of the documentary were spent on interviews with a journalist who was doing stories on the Silk Road and how law enforcement were so gung-ho on ending the site and capturing who ran it as quickly as possible. It shows that this site where people could sell these things to people allowed the transactions of controlled substances, using ratings and feedback likeother online marketplaces. No corners, no violence, no bodies and less violent crimes being committed. It brings up the idea that the Silk Road needed to go down because too many people would lose money if this caught on.
In the beginning there is some explanation of how these dark Internet sites are made and how they function. It also tries to cover some of the culture within these types of sites with interviews and such. Overall this is a very solid film; my one main criticism is that I wish it was longer and explored more of the other sites that popped up after the Silk Road was taken down for a bit and the face going through indictment and trial. All in all EPIX does a great job presenting documentaries on subjects other places don’t really have. It you have the channel take some time and check it out
We are at a weird time here with professional sports in the United States. It seems like each week we hear of another scandal of sports figures that are in some sort of issue of domestic violence, child abuse, or some drug-related crime and this past spring we had to deal with racism from an owner of a NBA team. With all this stuff going on much of the time, the biggest sports stars, and even some of the retired ones, stay silent or say even more problematic things when asked about it. So with all this going on it was really good to sit down and see I Am Ali to harken back to a time before myself when Black sports figures, because of their celebrity, had to help uplift and stand for things that would help us all and there really is no better person in that than Muhammad Ali.
I Am Ali is different type of documentary about the legendary boxer and sports figure from the 20thcentury. Unlike past documentaries about him that usually focused on his fights and comebacks, this one takes another path. It decides to focus on the person that he is and how he got to that from being a young kid to having a career later in life. Director Clare Lewins achieves this by using personal family recordings of Ali and his children along with tons of personal film recordings and other clips from the media to tell this story. This film uses a style reminiscent of the documentary Marley by also having interviews with people close to Ali like his daughters, brother, ex-wife, etc., and other sports figures or people influenced by him like Jim Brown and Mike Tyson.
The one thing I feel this film does really well is that it tries to give you a well-rounded picture of the man and the times he was in. Balancing it with testimonials that aren’t the usual look at just how great a boxer he was. The film is more about what he believed and what he was thinking about, which brings something new to the table. This film could really be used to introduce younger people to him that really have no knowledge of Ali in this current state of just Money Mayweather or UFC.
With that being said, some interviews are more enlightening than others. Hearing Jim Brown speak on Ali was interesting because they both were important to the pro-movement at the time. And to hear him speak on his friendship with Ali was something I didn’t even know. The interviews with his children Maryum, Muhammad, and Hana along with the recordings of them as children added the right amount of personal flair to really hold the film together like thread tying the different eras of his career together.
The one thing that I’d say was a flaw is that the film is about 95% positive in talking about Ali to the point where it feels they are talking about a demigod. Now, Ali is a great person but he is a human being and he had flaws. There is a little touch on this at the end after talking to his ex-wife Veronica Porche when she makes a comment about his infidelity. Now I don’t want some great trashing moment of his character but I do wish that had been explored a bit more to make it a better-well rounded film. Some more talk about each of his wives if possible would’ve helped. Overall I Am Ali is a great film about a very influential person that inspired a lot of people all across the globe. I Am Ali is something that should be seen and shown to as many people as possible who don’t know Muhammad Ali.